A/N: This chapter takes place a month after Issac returned from his supply run. And on the day of Operation: Lure. Worry not, I’m not rushing the story along due to a lack of creativity. Even after the story itself ends I have content waiting!
“It’s heavy!” Darren complained, going through the exercises with my sword I’d given him.
He’d asked almost every day since my return for me to teach him what I knew. I hesitantly agreed, preferring he know how to defend himself in a world like this.
“Use both hands. That makes for a stronger swing.” I instructed, as Alisha was warming up with her recurve bow a little ways off.
Today was the day of our mission to lure the infected off the property. It was growing tense as some families had lost members due to our inaction. It was hasty as we needed an extra team. Jin was with Ellis and Oscar in the lead truck, firing the grenades. Me and Daniel would ride the flanks to pull them along. While Jonas actually got in on the action as well. He and Alisha would take up the rear in his truck. As would Jerry and Donna. I felt a little underarmed as I hadn’t found anything that could replace my bow. There was a crossbow available, but I lacked the strength and know-how to fire it. So I was left with just my sword and a set of twin tanto blades.
Me and Daniel had the roughest job. If we fell off our bikes due to the terrain we’d be over in moments by the time we recovered. So we’d have to be careful. Watching Darren work away I hadn’t noticed Jonas come to stand beside me.
“Finally caved huh?” He asked, leaning on his crutches.
“Yeah. He needs to be able to look after himself at some point. He’ll be in his teens before we know it.” I shrugged, still a little uneasy.
“Everyone ready to go?” Ellis asked, catching our attention.
I approached Darren who had just completed a set of swings I had taught him just moments ago.
“It’s time for me to go. I’ll need that back.” I told him, crouching down.
He looked nervous, handing me back my katana. Sheathing it I rested a hand on his shoulder.
“We’ll be back. It’s simple. We won’t be fighting them the entire way. Just leading them.” I explained to him, being embraced in a tight hug.
No words were exchanged, but I knew every intention.
“Go keep my baby brother and sister company?” I asked, giving him a task to hopefully distract him.
“What if they come here?” He asked, still sounding worried.
It’s not like I could be on the radio the entire time with him. So I’d make up a white lie as the likelihood of something happening nonexistent.
“My sword is something special. I’ll always come back for it. No matter what.” I began, taking it off my shoulder and securing it to him.
“And my luck when I have it is always even better. So I’ll give you some luck with it.” I explained to him, as he still seemed unsure, but gave me a nod.
“Now go give Jo-Jo a hug and get inside.” I told him, walking over to make sure everyone’s head was in the right place.
“How’s the aim?” I asked Alisha as she collected her arrows.
“Pretty good. How are you without the sword?” She returned, seeming to have seen me and Darren’s exchange.
“Not as potent. But these two should do. I’ve been working on my taekwondo again.” I explained.
“I remember you were so good at it. Me and Jonas have your back from range.” She said, offering me a smile. She was trying to fake the confidence until she felt it.
I then made my way to Jonas who was climbing into his truck. I caught one of his crutches that tried to fall to the ground, handing it to him.
“Thanks.” He said simply, heaving a sigh.
“Why the sigh?” I questioned.
“Thinkin’ ’bout ya.” He said simply.
“It’s alright. Me and Daniel are some tough bastards. We’ll be up and on our feet in seconds.” I told him. I was fired up and ready to get this over with for peace stretching into the future.
I felt good enough to pick up slack for others if I had to. I’d cut down anything in my way that threatened me or the others.
“You do have that warrior blood in ya.” He chuckled, referring back to my heritage. It was a joke he’d bring up due to my sometimes fiery nature.
“It’s kept me alive so far. I don’t think that’ll change.” I said, feeling worried for him myself.
If more came from behind he and Alisha would be pinned between two fronts during the last phase.
“If it gets hairy Jo-Jo. Leave and get back to Darren and I’ll come back with the others.” I told him.
“I can’t promise that Bambi.” He said, looking shocked.
“You and Alisha are in a dangerous position. Even more so than me and Daniel. If you two get pinned you won’t make it out. I have a higher chance of making it out than you do.” I assured him.
“Can I get a kiss? And can ya make it last forever?” He asked, quoting a song be both loved.
“I’m about go to war. And I don’t know if i’ma see you again.” I replied, completing the verse.
“You will see me again.” I assured him, placing a kiss on his lips and giving him a quick tight hug.
And with that, I left him to check on the others. Ellis, Jin, and Oscar were all clustered around the humvee Jin arrived in with my parents.
“Ready?” I asked them.
“Are you?” Oscar asked instantly.
“I have no choice. It’s either we do this or more lives are lost.” I replied.
“He’s got that look in his eye. He’s different now.” Jin cooed, an amused smile on her face.
“He’s one of our stronger members. He fits his job.” Ellis said, looking over their guns.
“That he does.” Jin drawled.
Looking to my right I saw Daniel talking with Jerry and Donna. We’d had a risky job sure. Our ability to fight the infected up close without much of a risk of dying from a bite is why we had our jobs. Plus we were the more capable up close. Well, my value in close combat increased with practice I had thrown myself into, sparring with Ellis who was an accomplished martial artist as well. Approaching Daniel and his parents, I went about my check-in.
“How are ya hun?” Donna asked.
“We have a good plan. So I’m pretty confident.” I said, more so for Daniel’s sake who had seemed a little on edge.
Daniel who had seemed to be falling apart went over to his dirt bike, hopping on it and putting on his helmet. Donna went off after him, leaving me in Jerry’s company.
“So it seems you learned your lesson last month.” He said, closing the hood of the truck he’d been working on.
“Hmm?” I returned, confused.
“You learned that you have obligations. And people who care. And that you need to slow your roll.” He smirked, as it all dawned on me.
“Why didn’t you just tell me?” I asked.
“I couldn’t stop you from leaving. None of us could. But you’re a smart kid. You’d learn going out there.” He said, saluting me and he climbed into the truck.
Donna had glided past as I approached Daniel, who looked over at me as I drew closer.
“How are you not worried about Jonas? I’m worried about Alisha.” He rambled suddenly, not even giving me the chance to say anything.
I had to think for a moment. My performance would help Jonas. Daniel would be covering our other side, fighting off the stragglers with support from range. Alisha would be covering their rear while Jerry would be covering the rear of Donna. Jonas and Donna would lend me and Daniel support from range alongside Ellis, Jin, and Oscar.
“I have to believe they’re okay. Our performance keeps them safe from our front so they can worry about their backs.” I explained to him.
“And our solo performance allows us windows in time where we can switch things up if the unexpected happens. I’ve got your back.” I finished, offering him a smile.
“Thanks man. You’re so strong.” He said, flipping up the visor of his helmet.
“When you have people you want to keep safe you can do almost anything I feel. I learned how to tap into that.” I shrugged.
I loved deeply and quickly. It was a dual-edged sword. I’d do absolutely anything for those I cared about and it made me reckless at times, feeding into the psychological affliction I seemingly suffered from.
“Let’s kick some ass?” He asked, sticking out his fist as he started up his bike.
“Hell yeah.” I replied, bumping his fist with mine. I spun on my heel, making my way over to my bike. I practiced reaching for my tanto’s a few times, as they were located away from where I would normally reach.
The action calmed me down as it became more and more natural. Daniel had a crossbow and machete. So together I covered close range and we could default to me defending him while he took them from mid-range. It would work. The plan came together from brilliant minds. Leading the formation was Ellis’ group, which would be followed by me and Daniel. And we’d be followed by team DJ and JA. I put on my helmet, joining the formation and ripping through the desert after the others, being tailed by the rest.
On bikes and in vehicles we reached the falls in no time, pausing. Teams DJ and JA stayed behind, while Ellis and the others dove right into things. A loud explosion could be heard as Jin fired the first shot. It was like a symphony of screams and shouts that started instantly from the hoard that took my breath away. It had been a while since I’d seen it and its growth was scary. Jin and the others took off into the desert, dragging them along. Me and Daniel gave it some space as the hoard took off towards the others. Loud explosions could be heard in the distance, and by this time the last of the infected had left. I looked over to Daniel, shooting him a nod before waving off to the others behind us.
We both took off, flanking the heard by about 100 meters. It spread the hoard out as they split and came for us. Though the formation was kept the same. I flipped up my visor, shouting to keep their attention if they’d gotten distracted. It was actually working! Heart racing we pressed on, racing across the desert as I heard Ellis give the signal for the others to start following over the radio. Racing across the sands the canyon came into sight. Jin fired the last grenade before me and Daniel would have to jump. Ellis and the others broke off to the left, heading south for me and Daniel to do our part. We merged, coming close to one another. I saw him toss off the crossbow a little ways ahead, leaping from his bike. I did the same, bracing for the pain of being thrown across the ground. I didn’t freeze, managing to stop myself from rolling over into the canyon.
Getting up I looked up and around, not seeing Daniel.
“Daniel!” I called.
“Some help!” He grunted, as I caught sight of him hanging onto the cliff.
Our bikes hit the bottom of the canyon with an explosion. Moving over to help Daniel the ground crumbled a bit, proving to be unstable. When I turned around, I saw the first of the infected were on us already.
“What’s going on Issac?” I heard Ellis ask over the radio.
“A situation. I’ll handle it.” I said quickly, crouching down to help Daniel up.
“Are they close?” He asked, strain evident in his voice.
Turning around looked back, the closest being about 15 meters off.
“Yeah.” I said quickly, trying to pull him up.
Though he slipped from my hand, my heart dropping as my head whipped around to him. Looking down I was relieved to see he was standing on a cliff lip.
“Create a window and come back.” He said just as I heard a snarl right behind me.
Unsheathing my blades I spun, slashing its throat, forcing it back with a kick to the chest. Before it could recover I stabbed it in the skull, dashing off to the next pack leader, taking it down with a kick to the head. Jin needed to fire the final shot into the canyon to lure them here. But with us being in our position we’d be in danger. Rushing forward I tripped another, crushing its skull beneath my foot, dashing off to finish off the last one that was close. Leaping into the air I spun, delivering a kick to the side of its head, knocking it to the ground. Before I could finish it off a crossbow bolt struck its head. I looked back to see Daniel had climbed up without my help, shooting me a toothy grin.
“We gotta get out of the way.” I shouted to him, making a run for it. We made it to Ellis’ group, just as Jin impatiently fired the final grenade.
“A little messy but you two got your part done.” Oscar mused, looking through the binoculars.
“Thanks, professor’.” I drawled, rolling my eyes at his playfulness in light of the current situation.
“The killin’ isn’t done yet.” Ellis sighed, hopping down from the humvee.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Joinin’ in. Three verses however many is better than two.” He commented, watching the hoard of lurkers walk to their deaths over the ledge of the cliff.
That went on for about an hour, Jin occasionally firing grenades into the canyon to keep them coming. And after a while, it was just as planned. The tweakers stood at the ledge of the cliff, numbering to about 200 or so.
“Open season now.” I sighed, steeling myself. I felt obligated to protect both Ellis and Daniel with all I had. Having total immunity meant I could take more risks than they could.
I left ahead of the others, creating some ruckus to draw them into a neater group. Though their speed took me off guard. Before one of the front runners could reach me an arrow rung through its head. Looking back I saw Alisha waving at me from the top of Jonas’ truck. A shot fired from Team JD had split the hoard. Daniel took off past me, running to help his parents fend those off. While I still had time. I ran up to Alisha and Jonas.
“I’m going metaphorical balls to the wall. Stop the fast ones?” I asked quickly, feeling a surge of energy.
“Careful.” Jonas warned.
“Gotcha.” I told him, tossing off my helmet.
I charged ahead, bounding off of a rock for high ground. Leaping off of it I landed in a small group of infected. The first was slashed across the throat, and shoved into a nearby rock so hard its skull burst. The next up was dealt a flurry of slashes as I couldn’t get close enough to deal a killing blow. Being backed up to the large boulder I was fighting near. Bounding off of it with all my might I shot forward, tackling the infected to the ground, ending it. I felt a hand slip across my back quickly stopped by a sickening thud. Looking behind me I’d seen Ellis hovering around, having just struck down a tweaker that had me in its sights.
“Don’t die for me.” I told him, spinning and throwing one of my tantos into the skull of an infected coming for him from behind.
“You either.” He said, rushing past me to take on some more. Retrieving my tanto I commenced to taking on every infected I came across. I lacked a lot of strength to take them down with brute force so I used whatever I could in my surroundings to gain momentum. I cut down so many I lost count.
What could only be chalked up to blood lust drove me. With each I cut down I was granted a rush of adrenaline. I’d occasionally shout, to draw more when they’d leave my sight. I knew what I was fighting for, so my inhibitions dropped. It was all or nothing. If we failed here more families would have to bury their own. Spotting a bulky tweaker headed right for Ellis I took off after it. Without thinking I jumped onto its back, being swatted aside and thrown to the ground and left winded.
It took everything in me to get up and try again. This time I dug my blades into him, holding on with all I had.
“Ellis!” I shouted, clinging to the large man as he grasped at me.
Though he was tied up fighting off more infected coming for him. Heaving a breath, I drove my spiked kneecap into the spine of the infected man, his body growing limp under our combined weight in an instant. Ending it I wanted to continue fighting, but mid slash there was crackling across the radio I had clasped to my hip.
“Izzy!” I heard Darren call, instantly dousing the flame in me.
“What is it Darren.” I asked, on the run from a few that decided to chase me.
“It-s...They’re...House.” He said, the radio breaking up and sending a cold shock through me.
I bolted, headed right for Ellis who was close by.
“Trouble at the main house. I have to leave.” I said, seeing his face contort in confusion.
“Go. Me and the others will handle the rest.” He told me, gesturing to the few infected that remained.
I turned and ran to Jonas’ truck, getting strange looks from Alisha and Jonas.
“We have to get back to the main house. Something’s up.” I told Jonas, climbing into the passenger seat.
I didn’t have to say anything more before Jonas started up the truck.
“I can’t leave Daniel here.” Alisha complained.
“It’s okay we’ll drop you off by him.” Jonas said, tearing off as Alisha clung to the side of the truck.
She hopped off, waving us goodbye as she ran to Daniel’s side. Jonas then tore off into the desert as the pit in my stomach grew even more. Darren was in trouble. The main house was in trouble. The possibilities of what could have happened were nearly endless and had my mind racing as Jonas raced across the desert. Jonas didn’t say a word, skidding to a stop right in front of the house when we arrived.
“Go in, I’ll meet you in there.” He told me, gathering up his crutches.
I threw myself into action, tossing open the door and entering slowly, keeping my ears perked as I drew my tantos. Looking at the stares there was a trail of blood leading up the stairs. All of a sudden I was thrown into the wall behind me, being knocked dizzy. Chomping and snarling above me was something that made my heart drop was my father.
“No, no, no.” I said over and over, trying to hold him back as I heard yet another screech.
“This isn’t real.” I gasped, his teeth sinking into my collar bone as I cried out in pain.
I reached for my blades, greeted by them being out of reach. Something was hard poking into my stomach. I forced him off of me a bit, seeing my sword lodged in his abdomen. I wanted to get him off of me but it was different. This was a face that would show up to my sparring matches after working long hours. One that would stay up until 3 am with me when I was in emotional pain. A man I wasn’t even related to stepping up to be my father when I’d lost my biological one to death. The weight was carried off of me with a mighty shove and when I looked up I saw Jonas tussling with him, trying to restrain him. I was triggered and conflicted again. Jonas wouldn’t survive being bitten again. And my father wasn’t someone I could just put down. The second shriek revealed itself as Jericho’s wife tore around the corner, making a break for Jonas.
It was as if my body had a mind of its own, I tackled her and pinned her to the ground.
“Jonas. My sword.” I grunted from effort.
My mind had sobered up a bit. I couldn’t kill his wife if he was still alive. And I didn’t know if he was still alive. So I’d do what I could. He did what he could to pull it from my snarling father to toss it to me. I grasped it with my fingertips, pulling it into my hand. I raised it, bringing it down with all my might. I impaled her through the shoulder, pinning her to the floor. I turned to Jonas, letting my stepfather sink his teeth into my forearm as a distraction so Jonas could get away. It hurt like hell and I found myself frozen again as Jonas recovered, getting up onto his crutches again.
“Fuck.” Jonas sighed, looking shaken.
“You aren’t bitten are you?” I grimaced, forcing my father back to a wall, unable to look him in the eye as I held him there.
“No.” He said after checking himself over.
On instinct I whistled loudly, the sound carrying through the house. We were greeted only by the snarls of my father and Ella. The others were safe, or so I hoped.
“Find something to tie him up. I can’t hold him back much longer.” I grunted, taking my forearm from his jaws.
Jonas hobbled away, returning moments later with some linen sheets. They would have to do. I reached out with a hand, taking them from him, letting my father slip from my grip for just a moment to slip the sheet around his torso and arms as Jonas looked on in horror. I couldn’t falter. I couldn’t falter. I’d process when I could. Restraining him, I secured him to the wooden banister.
“How’s the situation back at the house?” I heard Ellis’s voice ask across the radio.
I was frozen, my world falling apart around me. The last people who should have been harmed were the ones here. The chances and risk were so slim I’d have a higher chance of getting pregnant. Jonas took the radio from my hip, speaking into it.
“You guys need to get here stat. It’s handled but get here.” Jonas said gruffly.
“What do you need?” He asked as I slipped down the wall, feeling all the strength I possessed fade from my body.
“What the fuck.” I said simply.
The gate and fence were untouched. So something strange happened here. Had someone been cut by a tainted arrow? I’d never left stuff like that around but had it been a possibility? My breathing was rapid as I felt my head spin. A panic attack was coming on. Trying to stave it off I hugged myself as tightly as I could. I was embraced by Jonas who slipped down next to me.
“Tighter?” He asked simply, everything getting too overwhelming before it just faded to nothing.
In a sudden snap, my eyes flew open as I awoke in a panic. Around me were sullen faces as I felt a warm presence beside me. Jericho had his face in his palms. My mother was sobbing silently alongside Alisha. It all came sinking and crashing down on me as I felt myself crying as well as memories floated back up. My heart hurt so much as I croaked a response.
“Where is he?” I asked Alisha, seeing her head pop up for a moment, her hand pointing out into the hallway.
I moved to get up, feeling a small hand grasp at my forearm.
“I couldn’t protect him.” Darren sniffled.
“It’s okay.” I croaked, trying to comfort him even now.
I got up slipping off into the dimly lit hall to see two bodies covered in sheets. The taller figure was my father. I collapsed before him, breaking down into tears as I lifted the sheet and ran my hand through his hair for what might be the last time.
“What happened to you?” I asked between gasps and sobs.
There was a pair of arms wrapped around my shoulder, making me jump. It was Ellis who crouched beside me in mourning as well.
“You had a syncope. This might not be the best thing for ya right now.” He said, attempting to soothe me.
“Maybe if we got here faster this wouldn’t have happened?” I shot back, feeling so many things at once.
“Why did this have to happen?” I sobbed.
“It was a freak accident.” He soothed, standing me up beside him and turning me away from the bodies.
“What happened?” I asked, fighting to compose myself.
“Jericho said Ella was taking a nap with the baby. And he heard growling and crying coming from the room after a while. He assumed Ella died and turned in her sleep from a heart attack or something of that nature.” Ellis began, making me feel weak in the knees.
“She tried biting him but your father jumped in, getting bitten. Your mom and Darren were in the living room. When they all turned while Jericho tried to hold them off. Darren dislocated his shoulder trying to defend them while they got upstairs.” Ellis went on, sparing me of no detail.
“He almost didn’t make it. Without his action more would have probably turned.” He finished.
And there fell the tears, streaming down my cheeks.
“Now I know this will sound harsh. But the dead are dead. There’s no amount of tears that can bring ’em back.” He said, making me wince.
“But what you can do is be there for the ones who lived. The ones who feel the same way you do right now.” He offered, urging me back into the living room.
He was right. No matter how many tears I shed it wouldn’t bring him back. My last memory of him was of him telling me how proud of me he was this morning. And that he was rooting for me back here. How far I’d come. And how I rose above all of this. What I’d do to just have that back for even five seconds right now. I staggered over to my mother who was holding onto Alisha, doing her very best to comfort my sister despite the pain she felt. I broke down into her embrace as well feeling torn apart. I glanced across the room to see Jonas consoling Darren. I beckoned them over, Darren practically running over as he broke down.
And that’s how our night went. Tears wept. Feeling exchanged and consoling one another in the face of this atrocity. Things were put in perspective for me. Every word Ellis spoke was true. And for once in life, I had to do things the right way. I’d support my mother, my sister. Anyone I could as that is how we’d all get better.
A/N: This one is a little short due to emotional intensity. The next will be riddled with it as well, taking place the next morning. Issac will continue to be pushed to his limits as things settle down. We’re almost there. And we’ll see if he sinks or swims. If he lives or dies. But anyway, until next time.